Every second Sunday during the winter months our boss Andy goes frostbite racing on the river Tyne, it's raced in a mixture of Sigma 8 and Cork 1720 sports boats. Breezy, its the Corks that tend to win, lighter winds the Sigmas with their mast head kites usually come out trumps with their ability to sail dead downwind.
The racing is very competitive and tight, and on a relatively narrow river, if it's windy, the margin for error is small if the mast head kite is pulling well and suddenly the wind changes 30 degrees, the steel piles carrying the riverside walk are never more than 100 metres away. However, if you are running into the tidal stream it pays to hug the sides as the tide is invariably slacker by up to three knots and if you are lucky you sometimes can pick up a back eddy! Seasoned Sigma sailors in the know always carry a spare pair of underpants onboard if the breeze is up!
Speaking of luck, with two wins under their belt from the last two races, our boy took to the river this past Sunday in a confident mood. However, on the second run in an effort to get up close to the leading Cork up went the big mast head kite and 30 seconds later their luck ran out, the wind shifted 40 degrees. A Chinese gybe was inevitable as was the coming together with the 'wall' ! Shame they were not sporting one of those superb Dutch bow fenders that we started importing the other week, shame they left their fenders on the marina in an effort to keep the weight down and shame the foredeck man (Andy) was not carrying one of those excellent blunt nosed knives we stock. With its serrated blade it's ideal, amongst other uses, for cutting the spinnaker halyard at the mast exit point if the wall is approaching at ten knots and the halyard won't come out of the cleat!